Sewickley church hosts Bible study sessions
Its members describe it as not only an in-depth Bible study, but as a warm and open place to share, find fellowship and feel comfortable.
Its volunteer leaders say it is a way for them to tell others about God's love and to fulfill their own calling.
Shari Anne Dale of Moon, Community Bible Study (CBS) area director, said the international program, held at St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley, started more than 40 years ago at a church in Maryland. There are classes in 42 states and in more than 80 countries for adults, women, men, co-ed, children, teens, college students and for those in prison.
Most CBS classes are held in churches that donate space.
Dale said classes are designed to be comfortable for anyone, no matter what denomination, faith or church affiliation, which is one of the aspects that makes CBS different. About 100 adults, 42 preschool and 75 school-age children come from Oakdale, Hopewell, Aliquippa, Moon, Coraopolis and Sewickley areas.
“Some don't know what they believe. They come here to search,” she said.
“It's so exciting to see all these people like this laying down our differences and coming together in faith for Christ.”
Dale, who oversees four classes, served in various CBS positions before becoming area director in 2009, starting as group leader about 25 years ago in a church in San Diego.
She helped to start the local CBS classes at First Baptist Church of Coraopolis in Moon in 2002 and moved to St. Stephen's soon after, when more space was needed.
The program offers adult women's day classes and two children's classes — one for mostly preschoolers, and another, After School Kids (ASK), for kindergarten through fifth grade. Some children receive home-school credits for taking the classes.
Marilee Ruscitti of Edgeworth, children's director, said she teaches because she loves the children and loves Jesus.
“It's easy to tell the little ones about God's love,” she said.
Songs are sung to the newborns as way to get them involved, too.
There are 21 leaders, 10 who lead mostly preschool children and 11 who help out the adults. About 75 children attend After School Kids for kindergarten through fifth grade, for which there are 27 volunteer leaders.
Some of the leaders are trained in CBS headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., and all are trained locally on a weekly basis.
JoAnne Phillips of Hopewell, who has been coming to CBS at St. Stephen's for eight years and been treasurer for seven, said she likes the way the curriculum is set up for the program.
Members study at home, study with others in small groups, and come together as one large group to talk about the material again with the teaching director to “reiterate the material three times. It's very in-depth,” Phillips said.
But, Dale said, no one is ever put on the spot to answer questions, and although members have homework to complete, no one every looks at their materials. Members can speak up in class if they want or remain quiet and listen. There are no grades given.
Theresa Newell of Leet, who recently joined the group, said she likes the “reinforcement” of the classes — “reading, hearing and thinking, because that's how we learn.”
She said she has been a Christian for many years but never read through the Bible completely. She said she likes CBS because it gives her an opportunity to study the “best selling book of all time.”
Monica Cordeiro of Moon, a member for about a year, said she enjoys meeting the women from the different communities.
“We share with each other and tell our stories with each other. We care for one another. It's very uplifting.”
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.